Universal Ballet , based in Seoul, is coming to Jakarta next month to stage their very first performance in Indonesia. Universal Ballet is popularly known for combining the grace and harmony of Asian thought and culture with the strength and beauty of western classical ballet. On their first visit, the company promises to bring a distinctive ballet production that has never been seen before in Indonesia. NOW! Jakarta had the opportunity to chat with Julia Moon, General Director of Universal Ballet, who shared with us a sneak preview of their upcoming performance.
Tell us a bit about your upcoming production in Jakarta
We will stage the legendary Korean classic tale, “Shim Chung – a Legend of the Far East”. The tale tells a beautiful story of a young girl’s love and devotion for her blind father. Shim Chung depicts the unconditional love between a child and parent which has touched many souls. Although it is just a simple folktale, Shim Chung always brings people to tears with its moving story.
Shim Chung was first premiered in 1986 as a cultural performance during the Korea Asian Games. This performance is very special for us as it marks the 30th anniversary of this production. We have already performed this ballet in more than 13 countries and 40 cities including Paris, Moscow, New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Bogota and Tokyo. Wherever we have gone, Shim Chung has always won wonderful reviews from the local press and a warm reception from the audience.
What are some of the influences driving the work?
The ballet was created by the founding artistic director of Universal Ballet, Adrienne Dellas. Over a period of three years, the production came to life through the efforts of her creative team that included American composer Kevin Barber Pickard, a Korean-American costume designer Sylvia Taalsohn and a Japanese lighting designer, Yuji Sawada. Though it was created by western artists, the ballet shows the beauty of Korean filial piety and the harmonious blending of western ballet style and Korean culture.
How do you prepare the team for this performance?
The preparation is very demanding physically since we only have two weeks of rehearsals. Fortunately, some of our dancers have already performed this ballet before so they already know what they’re doing. Our schedule begins with 80-minutes ballet class every day. We do this to maintain and develop the dancers’ technique and then we go into five or six hours of rehearsals for the performances.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far during the preparation?
The tight schedule is definitely our biggest challenge as we have 100 performances scheduled throughout the year. And since our calendar is super packed with performances and rehearsals, we have an unusual number of injured dancers in the first half of the year. We have to keep each dancer’s workload balanced so we can prevent injuries as much as possible. Another challenge is the language barrier. Half of our dancers are coming from different countries, like Japan, China, Russia, USA, England, Brazil, South Africa and so forth. Although we speak this special ‘ballet language’, many dancers need to adjust themselves by learning how to speak English and Korean.
What are your expectations from this first Universal Ballet performance in Indonesia?
I believe that arts and cultures can break down many differences and boundaries between countries. As an artist, I have the responsibility to make our world a more harmonious place to live and to bring people and nations closer together. I sincerely hope that our performance can create a deeper understanding between our two nations and that Indonesia and Korea can become closer and that we can learn from each other.
Finally, what can we expect from your show? What makes it different from other ballet performances?
Shim Chung is a world class ballet performance that features a variety of dancing styles, great music, enchanting sets and costumes, as well as an uplifting story that will engage every guest from the very first scene until the end. What makes this production different is that the male dancers perform very dynamic dancing movements which show their strong masculine technique, as well as Korean folk-style dancing. In contrast, the female dancers will present beautiful lyrical dancing as pearls in Act II and elegant court ladies in Act III.